moonrise kingdom

As I talked about last time, mostly when I'm watching a movie, particularly for the first time, I'm inside the movie, not analyzing its strengths and weaknesses as a work of art.

This is usually true of reading as well. However, there are some writers (Henry James and Thomas Pynchon come to mind) where I read along, enjoying the story, but then sometimes I pop out for a while just to enjoy the sentences.

I had this experience when watching Moonrise Kingdom. My enjoyment of the story was very pleasantly mixed with my enjoyment of how well it was being told.

The only other Wes Anderson movie I've ever seen (as far as I can remember) was The Royal Tenenbaums, which I didn't care for. It was well done, but all the characters were aimless and mopey, and for no particular reason. Why would I want to spend time with these people?

The great difference in Moonrise Kingdom is that the adults are pretty similar to the ones in Tenenbaums, but the movie isn't about them and it doesn't take their point of view.

Instead it's about two twelve-year-olds who decide to run away together. From their point of view, we see that the adults are well meaning but hapless (Bruce Willis, Edward Norton), awful and miserable (Frances McDormond, Bill Murray), menacing (Tilda Swinton, Harvey Keitel), and generally weird (Jason Schwartzman, who seems to be the Milo Minderbinder of the Khaki Scouts of North America).

I mention the actors because, hey, that's some great actors, huh? Plus, there's Bob Balaban as the narrator. But the stars of the movie are Jared Gilman as Sam Shakusky and Kara Hayward as Suzy Bishop, the two young lovers.*

Sam is a Khaki Scout, and he's a good scout, but he doesn't like the scout troop, mostly because they don't like him. Sam is, as his scout master reports in one of his daily logs (which he carefully records on a small tape recorder in his tent), "the least popular scout in the troop. By a significant margin." Suzy doesn't like her family, because, well, no sane person would.

So, they run away together. Their assets include Sam's Khaki Scout training, and their determination (and Suzy's books and record player and her kitten, all of which she brings, along with her lefty scissors and her ever-present binoculars).

Arrayed against them are her parents (both of whom are lawyers), the local police force (which consists of Bruce Willis), Social Services (played by Tilda Swinton), and the massed might of the Khaki Scouts of North America. And an approaching hurricane.

And they also have to deal with the difficulty of figuring out how adult romance might work (the movie is set in 1965, when twelve-year-olds knew a lot less than they do now).

The actors are great, and the dialogue is wonderful. Shots are framed as carefully as they are in a Coen brothers film, and to similarly good effect.

And there's also the pleasure of the details. As one critic pointed out, at the beginning of the movie the credits are right at the edge of the screen, as if telling us to watch the sides as well as the center. I've watched the film several times, and here are a couple of wonderful details I never would have caught the first time through:

After Sam escapes from the Khaki Scout camp, a list is given of the equipment he took with him, including two bedrolls (which are visible later attached to his backpack). Sam, obviously a 12-year-old gentleman, did not want to assume that he and his paramour would be sharing a bed. And at the end, when Suzy is back home, we see her yellow suitcase still sitting out in the hall. She's back, but apparently she's ready to leave again at a moment's notice, if it should become necessary.

I could go on and on, but I'll just say that the last time I watched a movie with the same giddy enjoyment was Kick-Ass. Which is, I hasten to add, unlike this picture in pretty much every way.

One thing that particularly attracts me to this picture, I suppose, is that I'm working on a story that takes place on an island off the coast of Massachusetts (the location of Moonrise Kingdom is never given, but it's clearly New England), and there is a bad storm...

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* It strikes me that it's pretty daring to make a movie with very young main characters. It all rests on the actors, and what if you choose wrong? For example, if you cast Bruce Willis in your movie (and he's great in this one, by the way), you know what you're getting. There's a track record you can look at. But Kara Hayward, who plays Suzy, had never been in a movie before. She was cast in an open audition, and I guess they just knew she was the one.

In Let the Right One In, the filmmakers auditioned for a year before the found the young actors who played Eli and Oscar. I wonder if they ever thought, "Hey, maybe we missed one back six months ago." On the other hand, Chloë Moretz was one of the first actresses Matthew Vaughn looked at for the part of Hit-Girl in Kick-Ass, and he stopped auditoning at that point. He knew she was the one. Which she was, obviously, but I admire the ability to make that kind of decision with that much confidence and with so much riding on it.


In other newes, Bethany's project is funded!


Also, here's a really good blog post. From Maggie Madly Writing: "The B-Word" (including the comments).


Oh, and I have to mention that this image pleases me. It's the cover of this month's issue the comic book Captain Marvel. That's Captain Marvel facing the camera. Her name is Carol Danvers, and she started her heroic career back in the 1970s when she was Ms. Marvel, a sidekick to the Captain Marvel of that time. He died, and she took various other names, and then recently she decided to assume the mantle and be Captain Marvel.

The dark-skinned fists approaching her belong to Monica Rambeau, who was also Captain Marvel for a while, years ago. I saw this, and I thought this would yet another pointless superhero-vs-superhero battle (plus, you know, girl fight!).

Nothing like that. They're working together (admittedly with a lot of clever banter about the use of the name). So, no pointless battle, no gratuitous girl fight. Cool.

Also, there are a lot of superheroes around these days, but it is something new to have that banner, "Earth's Mightiest Hero," referring to a woman. There are a lot of female superheroes, but the big powerhouses have almost always been male (Superman, Thor, the Hulk, etc.).

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2 Responses to moonrise kingdom

  1. Now I want to see this movie; I’m generally out of touch with what comes out so I hadn’t even heard of it until you mentioned it in a comment the other day. You piqued my curiosity about Moonrise Kingdom but also about the story you’re working on.

    I’ve been thinking about community, as usual, and it seems you have the ability to draw potent inspiration from movies in a way that reminds me of how reflecting on others’ work in my writing groups gives me a special type of fuel to keep going (and growing) as a writer.

  2. After I saw the movie it started popping up on various awards lists (the early ones which sometimes give an idea how the Oscars will go). So, this may be one of those rare moments when I’m fanatically devoted to something that’s actually popular.

    I would love to detail the influences that fed into Stevie One, but there’s no way to do that without giving away a key plot point. 🙂

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